What to do if you are involved in a shooting

by Ken Hanson

This week, Buckeye Firearms received a question asking 1.) how to find a self-defense attorney, and 2.) what to do in the aftermath of a shooting.

My book, the Ohio Guide to Firearm Laws, is now out in a Fourth Edition. Something I have been writing about for years, in the past and current editions, is the importance of the legal aftermath of a shooting. The first, last and only words you utter to the police should be "I can not talk to you until I have spoken with my attorney."

This is important enough that in the current edition of my book, I break it down into a checklist. Here is what I write in the narrative portion of my current edition:

If a gun owner becomes involved in a shooting, there are several important things to understand.

First, in the majority of cases, the shooter is going to be arrested and the case presented to the county grand jury. The average gun owner is a law-abiding member of society, has not been through the process of being charged with a crime, and will probably consider the following information to be offensive: If the gun owner is involved in a shooting, the first, last and only words to the police should be, "I cannot talk to you until I have consulted with my attorney." This statement is not obstructionist, does not imply guilt, and does not make the gun owner anti-law enforcement. Just keep in mind that it is not the job of the police or prosecutor to "clear" the gun owner. While the police and prosecutor do have an underlying duty to do justice, keep in mind that the first job of law enforcement is to document and prosecute crimes. They are under no duty to help you establish your claims of self-defense. Ask any person thoroughly involved with hands-on criminal justice, and he/she will tell you that the majority of criminal cases depend on statements from the accused to obtain a conviction.

A self-defense encounter is going to trigger psychological and physiological reactions. Your heart rate is going to skyrocket (one of my clients had a pulse in the 130s three days post- shooting.) Your sense of time and hearing are going to be distorted. You might have suffered from tunnel vision and not seen things that are obvious after-the-fact. You might be experiencing unavoidable excitement and elation as a result of surviving the encounter, and this would look damning to bystanders. I cannot stress this enough – you are not in a physical condition that makes you competent to give a statement post-shooting. Any mistake now is going to be magnified hundreds of times over 6 months down the road. Keep Your Mouth Shut until your attorney has a chance to visit with you. If the police are trying to bait you with "well if you have nothing to hide you'd talk to us...give me a break guy, this is clearly self defense, just give me the statement so I can wrap up my paperwork and release you etc," Keep Your Mouth Shut. If police interaction continues despite your request for an attorney, you should ask for medical treatment because you aren't feeling right (breathing fast, heart racing, distracted, can't concentrate etc).

Keeping your mouth shut might mean you spend a night or a weekend in jail. That is a small price to pay. Make sure your family, who is not being arrested, knows to keep their mouths shut until they talk to an attorney. Any inconsistency between what they say and what you say later is going to be magnified and harped upon. If you are in jail, do not discuss the situation with your cellmates, who are likely going to sell you out with inaccurate information, hoping that in return the prosecution helps him/her out. Keep Your Mouth Shut.

The Ohio Guide to Firearm Laws is in a new, Fourth Edition, and can be purchased through the Buckeye Firearms Bookstore or via www.ohiogunlawguide.com.

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